About Last Night

About Last Night: Towns' big game

Karl-Anthony Towns posts monster stat line; Evan Fournier beats buzzer -- again

David Lundy, NBA.com

Big-time players sometimes put up eye-catching numbers, usually a combination of points scored and rebounds for a big man, or points scored and assists for a guard.

But Karl-Anthony Towns embellished the big double-double with some extras last night, adding six assists, three steals and six blocks as he dominated in the Timberwolves’ 113-104 victory over the Heat. He posted 34 points and 18 rebounds, well above his 21.2 ppg and 11.8 rpg season averages.

But what set him apart were the defensive stats. Per the Elias Sports Bureau and courtesy of NBA.com/Stats, a player has not had a combination of those numbers or better in a game since the 1973-74 season.

Towns’ performance was only the fifth time in the last 20 years that a player has logged 30-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a road game.

The others accomplishing the feat: Joel Embiid vs. the Lakers in 2017, Tim Duncan vs. the Nuggets in 2012, Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 vs. the Warriors, and Tim Duncan vs. the Trail Blazers in 2003.

Equally impressive was Towns’ impact in the fourth quarter when the Heat made a run, cutting the Timberwolves lead to two. Towns, who scored 10 points in the fourth, made a hook shot, then a three-point play and a 3-pointer to put Minnesota back in command.

Another young Mav stands tall

Dennis Smith Jr. just turned 21 last month, but he doesn’t have the notoriety of backcourt mate Luke Doncic, who is a teen-aged rookie and the leader in the Kia Rookie of the Year race.

Nonetheless, Smith showed his game savvy in the final minute of the Mavericks 105-103 victory over the Thunder. Smith, who finished with 14 points, scored the game-winner on a reverse-course layup, then guarded the much taller Paul George tightly in the ensuing Thunder possession. The game-high scorer was held to a tough fadeaway jumper from the left wing that missed.

With 1.7 seconds left, Russell Westbrook came up empty on a corner 3-point attempt and the Mavericks held on for the win.

Dallas is getting used to close games. The win was the Mavericks’ sixth straight game decided by four points or less, and they are 2-4 during that stretch.

The Mavericks’ win overshadowed another great game for George, who scored 36 points, including the last 13 points for the Thunder despite missing the shot that could have forced overtime.

Fournier beats the buzzer — again

For the second time this season, Evan Fournier has won a game for the Orlando Magic as time expired. This time it was a long running floater from about the foul line to top the Detroit Pistons 109-107.

You may recall that, on Nov. 5, Fournier hit the first game-winning buzzer-beater of the young NBA season, knocking down a 22-footer (his toe was on the 3-point line) that lifted the Magic over the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-100.

Let’s evaluate Sunday night’s game-winner on NBA.com’s Horry Scale:

A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in November?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.

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Evan Fournier wasn’t having a great night on his way to just 13 points, but when the game was on the line, coach Steve Clifford called his number again.

DIFFICULTY: Fournier’s shot wasn’t a long one and defenders were not draped all over him, but it did require creating space with the dribble and finesse. A running floater from 15 feet out is not an easy shot, and Fournier ran cross-court for the inbounds pass, reversed direction toward the key and quickly pushed the floater off the dribble as he curled toward the basket.

GAME SITUATION: The score was tied at 107 -107 with 2.5 seconds left. Before the Magic called timeout, the Pistons’ Reggie Bulloch nailed a 3-pointer to cap a wild comeback in which Detroit cut an eight-point deficit during the final three minutes. But Fournier’s dagger staunched the bleeding and sent the Pistons packing with their 11th lost in their past 15 games

CELEBRATION: Fournier stayed in control, exulting a bit verbally but not jumping up and down or fist-pumping as he strutted. “Hey, I’ve done this before,” said his demeanor. His teammates mobbed him and the celebration moved toward the Orlando bench.

GRADE: A game-winner is a game-winner. But given the midseason status of the game and the ease with which Fournier broke free from the defense (who else would be likely to take the final shot?), this buzzer-beater gets 2 1/2 Horrys.

McCollum shines; Trail Blazers cruise

C.J. McCollum and the Trail Blazers got off to a quick start — McCollum scored 26 points in the first half — and never looked back in a 129-95 win over the Sixers, who shot poorly and did not have center Joel Embiid.

Embiid was held out as a precaution with a sore knee, and the Blazers outrebounded the Sixers 59 to 36, led by Al-Farouq Aminu (8), Josef Nurkic (7) and Meyers Leonard (8) and Caleb Swanigan (7) off the bench.

The shooting percentages were just as one-sided. The Trail Blazers were 12-22 from beyond the arc — including four 3-pointers by McCollum on seven attempts — while the Sixers were an abysmal 8-of 43, 18.6 percent.

McCollum finished with 35 points in a break out of his recent shooting woes. In his last six games, he had shot 16 percent from beyond the arc.

Yes, Virginia, Lakers can win sans LeBron

Faced with the possibility of going 0-3 since LeBron James went down with a strained groin, the young Lakers coalesced around Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (season-high 26 points), Josh Hart (22), and Brandon Ingram (21) and stood tall in the final minutes to take a 121-112 victory over the Kings.

The Lakers finished the game on a 18-4 run.

It was the second meeting of the two teams in four nights. On Thursday, Sacramento won on a 3-pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic at the buzzer.

Be nicer to Robin

Toronto’s mascot and the Bulls’ Robin Lopez have a long-running and (hopefully) good-natured feud. Watch what happens when The Raptor shows Lopez his New Year’s resolutions, which include, “Be nicer to Robin!”

Better late than never

Among the crowd at the Moda Center for the Sixers at Trail Blazers in Portland was a lady enjoying her first-ever Trail Blazers’ game. Not so unusual, you say. It is if you are 90. The woman was featured on the Moda Center overhead screen.